Hydroxychloroquine ups death risk, warns Indian-origin researcher in Lancet study

Henrietta Strickland
May 23, 2020

His study looked at almost 15,000 people with COVID-19 getting one of the malaria drugs with or without one of the suggested antibiotics and more than 81,000 patients getting none of those medications.

The authors estimated that the drugs put patients at up to 45 per cent higher risk of dying from Covid-19 compared with underlying health issues.

She reiterated Trump's claim that these studies look at sick people taking the drug, while he is healthy and taking it as a preventative measure, but questioned that if hydroxychloroquine has any positive effect at all if does not help the infected. The death rate among patients not taking the drugs was one in 11.

The study is the largest observational study so far on the use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19; it combined data from 15,000 Covid-19 patients at 671 hospitals on six continents who were treated with the drugs.

One of the findings of the current study seems hard to ignore: that the drugs increase the risk of unsafe disturbances in heart rhythms.

"Randomised clinical trials are essential to confirm any harms or benefits associated with these agents".

"Each of these drug regimens was associated with decreased in-hospital survival and increased frequency of ventricular arrhythmias when used for treatment of COVID-19", the researchers wrote.

The global study analyzed data from more than 96,000 hospitalized coronavirus patients from 671 hospitals across six continents during the period between late December and mid-April. The patients were hospitalized between December 20, 2019, and April 14, 2020. Patients who received hydroxychloroquine alone had a 34% increase in mortality risk and a 137% increase in risk of irregular heartbeat. Patients who received none of the treatments formed a control group.

The drug hydroxychloroquine offers no benefit to patients hospitalised with Covid-19, according to a new study in The Lancet.

Trump's criticism of the studies also comes as his allies have been eager to counter messaging from public health experts who say Trump is putting lives at risk by pushing states to quickly reopen in an election year. The drug has been tied to risky heart rhythm problems.

The study accounted for several "confounding factors", like, age, sex, race or ethnicity, body-mass index.

Those who were treated with hydroxychloroquine had a mortality rate of 18 percent. It is the largest observational analysis to date on the drug following disappointing results of earlier small studies.

Still, the results don't bode well for the malaria drugs as Covid-19 treatments.

Trump, without evidence, called the veterans study a "Trump enemy statement". Studies from Europe and China similarly failed to find that the drug showed any benefit for patients.

There is a study now underway involving more than 40,000 healthcare workers across Europe, Africa, Asia and South America, seeking to determine whether chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine could play a role in the fight against the novel coronavirus.

The doctors conducting the study were: Mandeep Mehra of Harvard Medical School, Sapan Desai of the Chicago-based Surgisphere Corporation, Frank Ruschitzka of University Heart Center at the University Hospital Zurich, and Amit Patel of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Utah.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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